Should You Use Mouthwash?

Four different bottles of unlabeled mouthwash.

Mouthwash is marketed to help fight bad breath, gingivitis, and cavities. But does daily swishing really improve oral health? Dental professionals say it depends on your oral care needs when it comes to deciding if you should include mouthwash as part of your daily dental regimen.

The Purpose of Mouthwashes

Some mouthwashes are cosmetic, like the kind claiming to whiten your smile or freshen your breath, while others are therapeutic and fight gum disease or prevent cavities. The caveat to these claims is that daily use of fluoride toothpaste is usually all that is needed to protect your teeth against cavities and oral decay. And while mouthwashes are effective at fighting bad breath for a few hours after use, some research has suggested that most non-prescription mouthwashes and antiseptic rinses are no more effective at preventing gum disease than simply rinsing with water. Some dentists also question the effectiveness of mouthwashes claiming to fight plaque and are concerned that daily use of mouthwash may mask symptoms of oral disease.

Make Mouthwash Effective

To get the most benefit from your mouthwash, brush and floss your teeth before use. Use only the recommended amount as instructed. With closed lips, swish the mouthwash around your mouth with your teeth slightly apart for at least 30 seconds. Do not eat, drink or rinse your mouth with water for 30 minutes after use to get the benefit of the fluoride, or other active ingredients, in the mouthwash. Also, pay close attention to the instructions on the bottle, in the event they vary from these general procedures.

Mouthwash Side Effects?

Sometimes there are side effects, depending on the type of mouthwash you use. Daily use of antiseptic mouthwashes that contain high levels of alcohol, from 18 to 26 percent, may create a burning sensation in the cheeks, teeth, and gums during and after use. Many mouthwashes with more concentrated formulas have negative side effects including mouth ulcers, sodium retention, root sensitivity, stains, soreness, numbness, and changes in taste. This is usually with excessive use and most patients do not need to worry about these side effects from occasional or prescribed use. If you use mouthwash and have these side effects, discontinue use and contact our Sacramento dentists for an appointment to examine your mouth. The American Dental Association also does not recommend children under six years of age use mouthwash unless directed by the dentist and with adult supervision. (Chiefly to prevent them from swallowing the mouthwash, which is not meant for consumption.)

Mouthwash is beneficial for preventing bad breath and for reaching areas not easily accessed by a toothbrush, but it is not a replacement for daily brushing and flossing. Nor does it eliminate the need for semi-annual visits to the dentist. Contact us today for an exam and cleaning and see how we keep our Sacramento dental patients smiling!

Sacramento Dentistry
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